Planting seeds with our school-age kids, pre-teens and teenagers
I love gardening. I will start by saying that I am terrible at gardening. But I LOVE it. I love the idea of growing something from a tiny seed into something that I can eat or put in a vase on my dining room table. I love the idea of nurturing plants with water and sunlight. I love the idea of growing. I always have.
My mother and father knew when I was very young that I was going to be a life-long learner, always striving to keep growing intellectually. I used to drive them crazy asking “Why?” questions. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do onions make you cry?” “Why do we need to sleep?” “Why. Why. Why.”
As a psychologist, I obviously love the idea of growing psychologically, emotionally, and behaviorally. I believe we were created to always keep evolving and improving. I never want to feel stagnant in my personal or professional growth. (This is different than finding stillness. Stillness actually promotes growth and is the antithesis of stagnancy. See my blog on stillness to know the difference!).
Growth is a necessary part of becoming better in every way.
I believe the same is true with our kids. They are actually growing at a much more rapid pace than adults. In fact, we have lots of science to show how rapidly their brains and bodies are developing.
However, I have talked to enough parents and teachers to know that sometimes it can feel like the things that we, as parents and teachers, are trying to teach our kids are not really helping them grow.
In other words, there are times when parents I have worked with have said, “Nothing is working. He just doesn’t get it. He keeps doing all of these things that we have explicitly told him NOT to do.”
Something I say very frequently to the parents that I work with is that we are simply planting seeds.
Did you listen to every single thing your parents taught you every time? No. But did the things that your parents frequently say to you eventually stick with you? YES! Those are the things that you remember. The things they repeated over and over.
Take a few minutes to think about the things you feel like you say to your child over and over. Look at these examples and consider how you might model these examples in your own family.
|Child statement or problem||Planting seeds||Nurturing growth||Harvest|
|Child complains every time he has to turn off his video games.||“Buddy, people are more important than electronics.”||“Remember, we have talked about how our family values people more than electronics.”||In the days, weeks, months, years to come, he will turn off his electronic devices when friends are around. OR He will say aloud, “People are more important than electronics.”|
|Child yells you never do what he wants to do.||“We frequently try to keep what you want to do in mind. In fact, last week we went to the movies like you wanted to do.”||“Remember, we think about you too. Remember the movies from the other week? Or the basketball arena? We think of you too.”||In the days, weeks, months, years to come, she will say she is glad we did those things as a family.|
|Child says he is too dumb to do homework.
|“I can hear your frustration about how hard homework is for you. I see how hard you are working. You are not dumb and it is not okay for you to say that about yourself. Let’s take a look at what you need to do together.”||“Remember how we have talked about what you can and cannot say about yourself when you are frustrated? You cannot say you are dumb. You can say, I am really frustrated by this math homework.”||In the days, weeks, months, years to come, he will share when he is angry or frustrated, but not use comments that degrade his self-worth.|
So when it feels like it is hopeless. Like your child is never going to ‘get it.’ Remember, you are planting seeds. Each time you are nurturing growth, keep focusing on planting and nurturing seeds. And just like a garden, sometimes it takes a lot of nurturing before that seed grows into the harvest.